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Friday, April 10, 2009

Chick Chat: Jen Calonita

Did you always want to be an author? If so, why? If not, what did you want to be?
I always wanted to be a writer, but not necessarily an author. I loved writing and figured my career would be as a magazine writer, which is what I started out doing. I did that for almost ten years before I became an author.

Is being an author what you expected?
It was even better than I imagined! I love creating these characters and their world. It's so much fun when you get an idea and then it just snowballs into something so huge you can't stop it. You just have to write it down. I love working from home and being near my two boys. And getting to write from home in your pajamas is not too shabby either!

What was your road to publishing like?
I was extremely lucky. EXTREMELY. It's not the norm, I know. But I was working at a magazine called Teen People and one of my editors knew I had a book idea. She mentioned it to an editor at Little, Brown, which is my publishing house today. The editor there took my call and agreed to have coffee with me and basically tell me what I needed to do to write a book. She agreed to look at my proposal once I had one. When I had that all in order, and did a few drafts back and forth with them, I eventually wound up getting a book contract with them. My editor from that meeting is one of my editors today. It's amazing.

How has your background in entertainment helped you in writing Secrets of my Hollywood Life? My work as an entertainment writer inspires every part of Secrets. Knowing that world and moving in it was beyond helpful in creating Kaitlin and all her people. So many characters are based loosely on people I met, or interviewed. One character is based on someone who used to yell at me on the phone. A lot.

What inspired you to write Secrets?
Definitely my job at Teen People. So many teen actors I interviewed loved what they did. Some, you could tell, fell into it because they were pushed in by a parent or a manger or the like. I was always amazed that these gorgeous talented people could have the same insecurities and fears as the rest of us. That's what made me want to create Kaitlin.

Most writers have a close friend and/or family member that gives them support and criticism. Do you have anyone like this in your life? If so how have they contributed to your writing?
Absolutely! For me it's my good friend Mara. She's a fellow entertainment writer who I used to work with. I'm always bouncing ideas off of her and asking her opinion on things. What I love about her is that she always gives it to me straight. If my idea is rotten, she's not afraid to tell me and help me make it better.

Many teens dream of becoming authors. What advice would you give to writing teens?
Write as much as you can as often as you can. The more you do it--even if it's just for yourself in your journal--the better, I think, you can become. You have to be comfortable with your words. I also think there are a ton of great websites out there that publish teen writers and that's something amazing that I never had growing up. Take advantage of those opportunities.

Would you rather see Secrets turned into a TV show or a movie?
Hmm...I think a movie. The first book has a slight Hannah Montana feel so I don't think it would work for TV. And that said, I need to point out that my book was written before Hannah Montana existed!

If you could cast anyone to play you're characters who would your dream cast be?
That changes by the year! When Secrets first came out, I wanted Hilary Duff to play Kaitlin. Then it became Ashley Tisdale. But now these stars are older and doing more adult roles. I need a new young teen queen-like a Selena Gomez--to step into Kaitlin's shoes.

Besides writing and reading what else are you passionate about?
My family. I adore my husband, and sons Tyler, who is four, and Dylan who is five months. And of course, our chihuahua, Captain Jack Sparrow!

What are some of your favorite books?
I love books that make me laugh and no one does that better than Sophie Kinsella. Her Shopaholic books are genius. I also loved "Can You Keep a Secret?" When I want something heavy, I turn to Jodi Picoult.

What are your favorite TV shows and/or movies?
I watch a lot of TV! I love Gossip Girl, 90210, Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty, the Food Network (Guy Fieri is a must).

When can readers expect to see Broadway Lights on shelves? Can you give us a hint as to what it’s about?
I am writing it right now and it's a lot of fun taking Kaitlin to New York. It will hit shelves in spring 2010 and the book is all about Kaitlin's time in New York and what it's like for her to be in a Broadway show. It's also the first time her and Austin have been separated for a long period of time and they both have a tough time with that. Sky pops up too. A lot! The two get into a lot of crazy situations together, which is fun to write.

Are you working on any other projects, besides Secrets? If so, what and when will they be released?
Yes, I have Sleepaway Girls, which will be out this May. That's about a CIT named Samantha who goes to sleepaway camp for the first time and butts heads with the queen bee. I also just finished a novel called Reality Check, which is about four best friends who get their own reality show. It deals with what happens to their friendship when they become stars. I also have Secrets 6 in the pipeline. Kaitlin will be back in Los Angeles for that one, but I can't say much more than that at this point. I'm just glad her story will continue.


  1. I've always loved the covers of the Secrets series...

  2. I love Jen--she is absolutely amazing! And her books rock too....I can't wait to start my copy of Secrets #4!

  3. I just bought the first two books recently. I will have to read them soon! I also agree that the covers are very pretty!


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